ORCV Melbourne to Hobart leaders approach South East Cape
Race leader Oskana continues to set the pace, maximising the big southwesterlies by staying further out to sea than the rest of the fleet as she gybed her way around South West Cape and is now passing Australia's most southerly lighthouse on Maatsuyker Island, with the bow of this Cookson 50 firmly pointed at South East Cape and the relatively calmer waters of Tasmania's east coast.
BoM Meteye wind predictions give her pressure all the way up to the Derwent River, or as sailors disdainfully call it, 'the ditch'; a waterway that can make or break hearts. Here the westerly breeze is forecast to be fickle during the night so skipper Michael Pritchard is making haste right now, pushing the boat at 14 knots according to the Blue Water tracker.
But Oskana is not having it all her own way as second boat Tevake II(Angus Fletcher) has gained nearly four miles since the morning by taking the more inshore route around the tall sentinel of South West Cape which puts her firmly on top of the handicap leader board, nearly an hour ahead of rival Whistler on corrected time. However under IRC handicap Tasmanian boat Whistler(David Aplin) is in a strong position, ahead of Alien(Justin Brenan) and Maverick(Rod Smallman).
The back of the fleet are still riding the big winds down the west coast and having their own private tussles, with the short-handed boats Red Jacket and Maverick keeping in contact as they surf towards High Rocky Point, mid-way down the west coast. Red Jacket, the Radford 12.2 is skippered by Annette Hesselmans and three female crew including 20 year-old daughter Sophie Snijders who are using the autopilot to help sail their course when the crew require rest or conditions are mild. Alongside them are the double-handers Rod Smallman and crewman Thomas Vaughan who have texted some images of them having dinner and generally enjoying the race on their Jeanneau Sunfast 3600.
But it will be a long night for the backmarkers Fast Forward and Escape that are only passing Strahan. However Matt Fahey's Fast Forward is one of the tough Sydney 38s so will be taking the windy conditions in her stride while she watches the sail of Robert Bradley's Farr 38IMS Escape just ahead.
Meantime at the front, Oskana will be aiming to reach Hobart around midnight or even before if she maximises the breeze and successfully stems the outgoing tide on the Derwent River to claim line honours and a home victory for a Tasmanian yacht.
Follow the yachts Blue Water Race Tracker: https://race.bluewatertracks.com/2018-melbourne-to-hobart-yacht-race